Family devotions were led by Hudson one morning, and I was curious to see what he would come up with. When he woke, I reminded him it was his day and asked if he was ready. His response was, “Nope,” but I could tell his wheels were spinning. He grabbed his sister’s devotions, which touched me deeply, knowing that he was ministering to four females. While seeking Jesus is unisex, I was so touched by this thoughtfulness. He talked about getting hurt by friends and how we sometimes have to stand alone but that we are never alone with Jesus. He did a great job of engaging us and asking us questions about the passage he had just read (he learned from yesterday). One of the things I cherish most about my family is the way we all support each other by asking Jesus questions together. We each got to ask something as the rest of us listened to what Jesus had to say. It is so life-giving and encouraging to hear what everyone heard Him say, which is the very essence of the prophetic (hearing God for others).
This may surprise you, but not getting along, striving to be first, seeking their own way, being demanding, and focusing all on themselves is NORMAL for every child. It is called living in a fallen world. As Christians, we believe in harnessing our natural fleshly desires and learning to partner with the character qualities of heaven, such as power, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (James 4:1-10 & Galatians 5:17).
Do you ponder God’s grace as much as you ponder your guilt? Is your list of blessings as long as your list of complaints? Is your mental file of hope as thick as your mental file of dread? Focus on the giants, and YOU stumble. Focus on GOD, and the giants tumble! You can rewrite the story for the next generation by teaching them how to build their mental file. Grab a piece of paper, and together as a family, begin answering these questions: Where have you seen God move this week? How did Jesus help you today?
As a mom of four, I had my grocery trips down to a science. I had my toddler in the front, my baby in the carrier of the cart, and my four-year-old twins holding onto each side of the cart. There was peace and joy when we went to the store. Until the day they all outgrew their places, and they were running around playing tag while I attempted to shop. I rationalized that they were fine because they were being joyful, but the joy broke out into the next aisle, where they zoomed up and down the rows of food. Finally, they rounded the corner and nearly plowed over an elderly lady with a walker! I realized my previous system was no longer effective. I had to go home and call another family meeting where I taught them what going to the store looked like in this new stage. This is the process of building them with age-appropriate character throughout their childhood years.
Sibling conflict is God’s training ground. Use it for their good.
I want you to ponder your children and the way they interact and speak to each other. What does it look like? What do you tolerate? What don’t you tolerate? What are the stated household rules for getting along? What consequences can be expected when they don’t? I am not asking for what you hope for; I am asking what the current reality of your household is. Are your children allowed to hit their siblings? Are they allowed to slam doors? Say, “I hate you”? Are they allowed to pick their friends over their family? Every family has its own rhythm, and no two families will flow alike. Every family will have a different set of core values and different standards which they are governed by. As parents, it is important to be able to see the vision you have for your family. If you don’t know what you are aiming for, you will parent inconsistently, which will produce inconsistent and frustrating results for the whole family.
For me, growing up, there was freedom to hurt and hate each other, which affected me greatly. When I started having my own children, I drew a line in the sand and was determined to teach them that we would be a family that communicated belonging and acceptance. True change doesn’t come from just outward performance; it comes from within. Instead of giving you a list of tools to use to whip your children into shape and force them to love each other (which, by the way, never works), I want to help you come into alignment in your heart first. It is out of that place where real change happens. Spend time pondering and processing this with the Lord. Ask Him to shine His flashlight into your heart (Psalms 139:23) and show you how He sees and feels about the way the siblings treat each other. Oftentimes there is a pang of great guilt for parents because they WANT their children to get along more but simply don’t know how. Confess that to the Lord – that perhaps you have allowed (for whatever reason) your children to be unkind to each. Allow Him to speak to your heart. I am going to provide you with some questions to ponder with Him. I encourage you to get a journal and write down whatever you heard or see Him saying to you. If He is really the head of your household, then give Him room to speak into this situation.
“Father God, would You please show me what makes You happy when you see family?”
“Jesus, would You be willing to reveal to me what in our family needs to come into alignment?”
“Holy Spirit, what does my child really need from me when there is conflict?”
“Father, what area do You want me to focus on with my children?”
“Jesus, if You were here today in the flesh, how would You handle my children?” (You may be surprised by the answer).
God is a perfect Father and knows how to lead your family into greater peace. Holy Spirit is your Helper, and there is nothing but hope ahead to have the family you have dreamed about. Let the Children Fly!
I was chatting with a mom the other night about her son getting out of bed 101 times. She went through the list and said, “Spanking doesn’t work,” “timeouts don’t work,” “withholding toys don’t work,” “getting mad doesn’t work,” and after the fifth example of what doesn’t work, I realized that SHE is the one who wasn’t working. I asked her why she thought it wasn’t working, and she said that her son kept doing the behavior despite her dealing with him. I asked how long she went after it, and she responded that she didn’t want to be the mean parent as she grew up with a lot of fear and intimidation. BAM! That was the key right there. She hasn’t yet fully reconciled her own experience, which was influencing her ability to parent her strong-willed son. She realized she didn’t want to use fear and intimidation, which is good, but she needed to keep going in her process. Does being firm mean intimidation? Is exercising parental authority going to induce fear over the child? If we don’t reconcile our parent’s parenting, we will swing so far to the other side, making both generations out of balance. We need to come into alignment with how God runs His family. No to fear and intimidation, yes to parental authority, and being firm.
Character, like a stake on a young tree, is what supports the fruit the Father wants to bear through each of us. Simply put, character matters because it matters to God! I’m often asked, “At what age should one start teaching about character?” My response is – character is for all ages, but the younger you start, the easier it will be to set the standard. It is much easier to teach a two-year-old about self-control than a teenager who has lived without it their entire life. If your child is able to use the word “NO!” and mean it, they are ready for character training. Often parents give young children all the freedom in the world in fear of stifling their child’s exploration and creativity, but as they get older, they begin to clamp down on their freedom. This creates a power struggle that results in a frustrated parent and a relentless child resolved to keep the unrestricted freedom they’ve already tasted. Perhaps a better approach is to empower a child with freedom as they relate to their ability to walk in self-control to manage the freedom well. The Bible says in Romans 14:17, “The Kingdom of God is… righteousness, peace, and joy…” I don’t think it was an accident that righteousness was listed first. It is hard to walk in peace and joy when unrighteous ways like selfishness, rudeness, and a lack of self-control are present. If you want to release the Kingdom of God through your children as a family lifestyle, then here is your parenting job description: Cultivate a home where righteousness, peace, and joy are plentiful because this is where the Kingdom of God is. This isn’t a one-time teaching but a lifetime of cultivating righteousness, peace, and joy in your home. Your child will have a harder time hearing God’s voice if they haven’t been taught to listen to yours first. You will have a greater challenge getting them to care about others if they have been taught that they are the only ones that matter. Parents want the fruit of well-behaved joyful children but often do little in times of peace to sow into that. No child is born with the character to change the world around them. They need to be influenced, shaped, molded, corrected, and taught intentionally.
We have a popular eBooklet called CHARACTER COUNTS that empowers parents in the area of character training by defining what it is, why it is important and how to create a family lifestyle around it. We also provide parents with easy, fun, hands-on activities to do with their children to go after healthy character traits. Going after this TODAY will reap fruit for a LIFETIME. Nothing opens doors of favor more for our children than good character. You can get your instant download copy here: Character Training SOAR Magazine – Let the Children Fly
I am getting better and better at letting my kids feel the aftermath of their choices instead of taking it on myself. The other day, I asked one of the kids to take out the trash, and as we pulled out of the driveway to go to school, I noticed two fully loaded trash bags sitting against the fence. I immediately pulled back into the driveway and put the trash in the bin myself in a bit of a huff. In the process, I stepped in the mud with my new shoes on, and it was not a fun ride to school. I sensed Holy Spirit saying to me, “Why did you do that?” and I began to think of what would happen if I hadn’t put the trash in the bin myself. Oh my – it would have been a disaster. Surely the neighbor dogs would have found the chicken bones, and there would have been trash all over the yard. And gee, the neighbors would probably think less of me if my yard was littered with trash. Then I heard it again, “Why did YOU do that?” and I began to picture my son coming home from school to find trash – the trash HE left out – all over the place and how uncomfortable HE would have been in cleaning it all up. While it would have cost me embarrassment with my neighbors, it would have been a price to pay for my child to learn ownership of completing tasks fully. God has set before us a Kingdom principle of reaping and sowing. Our children need to learn how to reap what they are sowing and not always have a parent who steps in to reap what they have sown.
Teaching your child to confess their sin robs the enemy of his desire to wrap them in shame. Humility is taught, not to condemn but to FREE us from the sins of our flesh. It looks like this: There is conflict, and you ask, “Sweetie, what did you do wrong?” They tell you their part (confession), and then you help them ask for forgiveness. “Jesus, I hurt my brother. Would You please forgive me?” If they honestly can’t tell you what they did wrong, then YOU haven’t done your part as a parent to teach them what right living (righteousness) looks like in that situation. Teach and empower them in times of peace what right living looks like. Forgiveness isn’t a blank credit card for our sins. It is a GIFT that needs to be acknowledged, honored, and intentionally received. When children mess up, they carry the guilt, which can easily become shameful if not dealt with. Helping them confess brings peace to their heart.
I heard a mom say, “Without sibling conflict, our family would be so peaceful. It is the main area that seems to bring such chaos.” What about your home? How is the peace level? Siblings are God’s built-in training ground for teaching children how to walk in the fruit of the Spirit so that they can be successful adults.